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Transition troubles in the beginning of my webcomic:
So, after half a year of worldbuilding and laying out the general plot, I've finally begun to actually script the beginning of my science fiction webcomic. Unfortunately, in doing so, I've run into a major problem. The very first story arc (or the first part of that arc) involves alien secret agent Krajn literally running into human lead Harry and accidentally dragging him into the plot. Since part of my intention here is to play with various Call to Adventure and Audience Surrogate conventions - in the eventual story as a whole, Krajn is the real protagonist and Harry is at best the Deuteragonist - and Harry's introduction provides a much better one to the setting in general than Krajn's In Medias Res introduction, I definitely intend to start from Harry's point of view, switching over to Krajn a few strips onward. Unfortunately, this poses a major problem in terms of tone - Harry's strips are almost purely comedic and lighthearted, save for a few 'establishing shots' meant to make the reader - inasmuch as possible with the art style - go "ooh". Krajn's strips are action-based and fairly serious in tone. I think it's important to feature both as early as possible, since this won't be a purely parodic comic and I want to avoid Cerebus Syndrome, but I'm worried that going from one to the other could be quite jarring for readers. Furthermore, even this early into a comic, and even with it clear that the characters are bound for a collision, I'm really concerned about reader reaction to the focus suddenly being switched from the guy we've been following to a character who has never been seen before. As such, I'm basically stuck on how to handle the switch. While I have preliminary scripts for both characters, I'm left blank as to how to transition from Harry to Krajn for the first time. So, suggestions? Am I worrying too much? Very little of this is absolutely settled for certain, so I'd be willing to consider alternatives if necessary, but I'm more looking for advice on how to mitigate the whiplash.
edited 28th Sep '12 12:44:25 AM by nrjxll
Occasionally erudite, often ignorantI would probably have Harry witness or pass by some violent event (car crash, robbery etc.), and segue that into the more violent action bits. If that's too jarring, tone down the details of the event, and his proximity to it. If it's still too jarring, have him watch it on the news or something. As long as it's even tangentially related to the other plotline it'll lessen the mood whiplash (since it's in the context of his life) and won't violate the law of conservation of detail. This is only one approach, but as a reader and a writer I think it would work well enough. And your fears aren't unfounded- Goblins got a fair share of flak for the massive tone shift, and the artist still has to justify it to fans periodically. It's better to avoid cerebus syndrome if you can, especially if you have time to plan ahead.
Hmm... I'm not confident that it would work, but one idea that occurs to me is to contrast Harry's experiences with those of Krajn, either by virtue of a few panels of Krajn's introduction per several of Harry's or by placing Krajn's action in the page backdrop, with Harry's experiences in "foreground" panels.
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